Trip Report: Hornby Island, B.C.

Hornby Island is a dot of land in British Columbia’s inside passage, a misty and green place quiet and secluded a couple miles offshore from Vancouver Island. Access is via two ferry trips, and once you’re there the pace of life slows down immediately. It’s a sleepy place with rolling waves, foggy beaches, and enchanted forests cloaked verdant green with moss, ferns, and towering pine trees that fade above into the gray.

This fall, on a trip through British Columbia, I spent three days on Hornby. I got up early one morning to do a solo trail run across the island’s wild west side and through Mount Geoffrey Regional Nature Park. My goal was the summit of the park’s eponymous mountain peak, the 1,080-foot Mount Geoffrey.

The mountain is the highest point on Hornby, and it’s accessed via the aptly-named “Cliff Trail,” which parallels the immense cliffy bluffs guarding the western edge of the island. As the sun dipped behind a wall of clouds, I took off for a run on the Cliff Trail with my SPOT device, a couple energy gels, water, a compass, and a lightweight shell in anticipation of the island’s common rain.

Gear for the run — a small pack, SPOT device, and running shoes

My map, a freebie snagged from the lobby at our cabin resort, was rudimentary. With an infusion of new mountain-biking trails in the park, I ran off the map and found myself lost more than once. At a trail intersection, I leaned back to read an unexpected sign: “4 Dead Aliens,” it foretold.

There was not another soul in the misty woods above the ocean. The run — a 5-mile route end to end — was quiet and serene, the moist air, soft forest floor, and mass of vegetation absorbing all noise. The animals on Hornby are quiet even.

Ominous sign near summit of Mount Geoffrey

Despite some navigational confusion, I made my objective less than an hour into the adventure. On the summit of Mount Geoffrey, an easy climb with a tree-choked view, I found prayer flags strung up and a cairn marking the high point. I set my camera on a self-timer mode to get an image. Then I ran east, following my compass needle on a bearing toward the far side of the island.

The woods opened enough that I could run off trail. I hopped logs and ducked under low branches. The mountain-biking trails, which rolled and looped in the woods, served as waypoints to prove I was headed the right way.

Prayer flags on summit of Mount Geoffrey

Two hours into the run, I stumbled out of the trees and onto a trail. The wide path led to a road, and I ran downhill toward a line of mountain bikers suited up and spinning toward the singletrack I’d just left behind. My “finish line” on Hornby was just ahead. For the bikers — pedaling fast, clicking into new gears — the adventure, including “4 Dead Aliens,” was still ahead.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of

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